"How did I get sucked into doing this?" I mutter to myself as I hoist our big mainsail on a stormy winter`s day. Heather has had an article accepted by a sailing magazine and a photographer has arrived for a hurried series of pictures of Shiriri in action poses. There looks to be plenty of action very soon with a gale funneling up Captains Passage combined with the photographers insistence on some shots under full sail.
Gwyn and Heather pose precariously.
Shiriri carries a lot of canvas in her normal working rig of main, fore, forestays`l and jib: suitable for light airs only, with the expectation that sails will be lowered or reefed as wind strength increases. Our photographer has his eye on the spectacular shot however and somehow he has taken control. We find a deep cove on Prevost Island that has some shelter, hoist all sail, cross our fingers and start to zigzag slowly downwind towards the open sea while he directs us from a chase boat. "Get those pictures now!" I mutter as I carefully gybe Shiriri back and forth down the narrow bay.
"OK the wind has dropped out by the beacon. Sail out there!" comes the order from the chase boat and out we go. I can see why he wants this particular picture, so full of power and drama. He is a professional. But not a professional sailor, and I should not be signing my job away. Once off the point in the full blast of the gale and with the rocky headland right under our lee I have to gybe again and Shiriri, never the stiffest boat in the world, rolls on her beam ends and lies there, sails thrashing. It feels like the moment lasts forever and that we are frozen, unable to act.
Fortunately, if her crew fumbles momentarily, Shiriri can still shake her head and get back up on her feet and is quicky sailing heeled rail down out into open water. I must have finally given my own head a shake and decided that a photo of Shiriri`s red bottom would have to satisfy our photographer`s lust for the perfect picture, because I get the big mainsail down and head back into shelter despite excited commands to "Keep those sails up!"over the radio.
We finish with all the other shots throughout the afternoon and then he is gone as quickly as he arrived. We look at each other and agree we have learned a few things that day. The obvious one is never hand over command to someone else`s agenda but the more important one was that Shiriri is a tough boat who will keep coming up for more. Without that pressure to risk ourselves we would not have made that manoeuver and found there was a lot more to her design ancestry of East Coast fishing schooners than a romantic appearance.